In the May 12, 2014 online edition of the New Republic, the co-authors of Digital_Humanities and I replied to Adam Kirsch’s recent piece: “Technology is Taking over English Departments: The False Promise of the Digital Humanities” under the heading Disputations. The aim of the response was not only to correct some factual inaccuracies, but to emphasize the fundamental ways in which technology lies within, not outside, the scope of humanistic inquiry (irrespective of whether the technology in question is the scroll, the codex, the industrial era book, or a database). The relatively recent shift to grappling with big data sets and digital tool- and platform-building is merely one shift in a long lineage of similar shifts that mark the history of the humanities disciplines. Today, we speak of “digital humanities” as a short-hand way of pointing to some emerging areas of experimentation and research that are enabled by and supported by digital tools and resources. But the word digital was always already a placeholder; its fate is to find itself absorbed into the word humanities as once outlying domains become “business as usual” (much as they are “business as usual” in fields such as archeology). Does this imply the arrival of new humanistic methods, tools, objects of study, scales of analysis? Naturally, it does. Does this imply or require an abandonment of past humanistic methods, tools, objects of study, scales of analysis? Of course it doesn’t.
Here’s a page view that links back to the New Republic piece: